S L Forsburg
nospamforsburg at salk.edu
Sun Apr 25 23:51:31 EST 1999
> To: womenbio at net.bio.net
> From: Sally Burns <burnssal at pilot.msu.edu>
> Returning to academia I had to bust a guy who was hanging out in the
> women's bathroom with his pants down. He pled guilty in court. What
> was too bad about this is that the university did nothing about him, he
> was allowed to keep access to research facilities. This incident did set
> me back-- because I no longer felt safe using my building on evenings
> and weekends. And I completely avoided the building this jerk worked in.
It's unfortunate that often our own freedom is impinged by these sorts
of incidents. When I was a postdoc, there was an incident where a woman
in a lab felt threatened by an intruder. For a brief time, the dept
administration suggested that women not work late, nights, or weekends.
Fortunately there was a howl of anger in which women students and
postdocs pointed out that they deserved a safe working environment,
not one that made them a victim even in the absence of crime, or a
Fear for personal safety is somthing every woman deals with, when she
late and treks to her car. That same vulnerability doesn't
exist for men; they take it for granted that they can work late
and feel safe.
Men work late and fear they'll die from a heartattack. Women work
late and fear they'll be raped or murdered.
From today's Chronicle of Higher Education (www.chronicle.com):
C> Document reveals university's hesitancy in acting against
C> accused harasser
C>Western Kentucky University ignored recommendations by several of its
C>officials last year to officials last year to fire an administrator
C> who was accused of numerous counts of sexual harassment, opting
C> to reprimand him instead, an internal report revealed.
If this sort of thing hadn't long since made me completely cynical,
I'd be amazed. What possible justification is there for keeping around
someone who is admittedly a harrasser? They almost always harrass
someone junior and powerless. And this sends a message that junior
women with little power are not valued as much as a senior man,
regardless of his behavior. "Oh, that's just Smith being Smith,"
they say indulgently. And the reality is that academic women can't
afford to "bust" them, as Sally urges, because their futures
would certainly be ruined. They should on principle, but in reality,
they can't. It's hard enough to get anywhere in this
business without that sort of baggage. Watch what happens to a woman
who tries doing the right thing--she'll be accused of
everything from troublemaking to nymphomania to incompetence. Sure,
maybe she could get a settlement from a court. But fat lot of good that
will be if she can't get a job doing her science. And in academe
(where people seem to get away with vastly more of this sort of thing
than in business), it's a very small, inbred old boys' club--everyone
knows each other, and a word from a powerful guy means everything.
Of course, if women DON'T file complaints, then there is no hope of
ever eradicating the harrassers. But it comes at an enormous cost, on
top of the already enormous cost that women pay in breaking into the
sheltered ranks of the old boys.
Oh, but I'm forgetting--academics is so OPEN and ENLIGHTENED nothing like
that could happen here. Yeah, right.
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